The words flown

What we entrust to the wind

by Laura Imai Messina

Translated from the Italian by Marianne Faurobert

Albin Michel, 290 p., 19.90

Each time the sea appears in his field of vision, the heartache rises. Assaulted by the sensation that water is filling her mouth, Yui has to make an effort not to vomit. Host of a radio show where listeners speak, she chose the theme of testimonies from this day: “After a great mourning, where did you get the strength to get up each morning? How do you console yourself when you are unhappy? “ His team shuddered, knowing “What an abyss Yui carried within her”. But “Precisely because she had suffered so much, no drama could touch her anymore”.

Each speaker delivers his tender and derisory recipes to continue to stand up. At the very end of the program, a man, whose wife disappeared body and property in the tsunami of March 11, 2011, evokes a telephone booth located on Whale Mountain, in the most affected region. “The device is not plugged in, it is the wind which carries the voices. I say hello, Yoko, how are you? And I feel like I’m going back to the one before, when my wife was preparing lunch or dinner in the kitchen, listening to me moan because the coffee was burning my tongue… ” Yui, whose mother and 3-year-old girl also died in this cataclysm, wasted no time in setting out on the seven-hour journey from Tokyo to the cabin, Bell Gardia.

Italian living in Japan, Laura Imai Messina teaches her mother tongue in Tokyo. She was inspired by a real place, a cabin installed in her garden by a man who welcomes all the bereaved who have come to whisper words to their dead. Laura Imai Messina gives her writing all the delicacy that befits such a subject.

Between narrative chapters, she inserts short texts in which she specifies moving details: dried flowers found by Yui between the pages of her mother’s book, gifts bought for her daughter whom she did not have the time to offer him … Without indulging in the story of sorrow, the writer recounts the vital impetus that resists the drama, the words flown on Whale Mountain, and a door open again to happiness.

Around this unique place and its creator, a small community of men, women and sometimes children is formed. Yui meets Takeshi, a widowed doctor with whom she returns every month to Bell Gardia, Shio whose fishing father died on his boat on March 11, 2011, a man furious with his drowned son during an absurd challenge with two friends. All entrust to the wind the phrases of love and everyday life that they intend for their departed. Not a Christian but a fervent reader of the Bible, Shio is convinced of this: “ The wind is the breath of God.


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